Ship management company

Adams plans to house asylum seekers on cruise ships amid questions over cost and environmental toll

New details about the cost of emergency shelter on Randall’s Island raise questions about the feasibility of housing asylum seekers on a docked cruise ship that could cost the city millions and have unintended environmental consequences.

The proposal to house asylum seekers on a cruise ship parked on the Staten Island waterfront surfaced weeks ago and remains an option, Mayor Eric Adams’ office said.

Details on how the cruise plan will work were not available. Politicians and other local officials said most of the information they got about accommodation plans for asylum seekers came from the press. But a review of the past use of cruise ships in emergencies, as well as past controversies surrounding the ships in New York, shows that they are very expensive to operate and bad for the environment.

Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella said city officials told him a deal with a cruise line isn’t imminent – but is under consideration because it could be more affordable than erecting tent shelters.

“For lack of a better phrase, it was cheaper to get the cruise ship than to build these tents,” said Fossella, who opposes the proposal. “I have no knowledge of the numbers or any of that other than that’s why it was considered.”

But it’s unclear how cruise ships could be more affordable than tent structures or housing homeless asylum seekers in hotels.

In Mississippi, FEMA temporarily housed people displaced by Hurricane Katrina in trailers on private property that cost an average of $30,000 each, according to a 2007 report from the United States. Office of Government Accountability.

Federal officials also signed a controversial six-month contract with Carnival Cruise Lines to temporarily house more than 8,000 people on ships docked in New Orleans. The agency paid Carnival $236 million.

On Tuesday, Zach Iscol, the city’s emergency management commissioner, confirmed the city spent about $650,000 dismantling the tents of asylum seekers in flood-prone Orchard Beach, and ride ’em up on Randall’s Island.

“The mayor has made it clear that he is considering a multitude of options to deal with this crisis. If a cruise ship is chosen to temporarily place asylum seekers, we will make it public,” a spokesperson said. of town hall.

A spokesperson for Norwegian Cruise Line confirmed that the mayor had approached the company about renting a cruise ship, but “no agreement was reached”. Negotiations reportedly centered on leasing one of the company’s vessels for at least six months and docking it at Stapleton’s Homeport Pier, near a waterfront park on Staten Island’s north shore.

Asylum seekers would be temporarily accommodated there before being placed in the city’s accommodation system.

According The New York Postthe city is now in talks with other cruise lines, including Carnival, which the company denies.

“Carnival Cruise Line does not discuss the use of our ships for charters, including to New York,” a company spokesperson told Gothamist.

Using a moored cruise ship also raises environmental concerns. The ships at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, for example, have long been the subject of complaints from residents of Red Hook.

A single cruise ship idling in port emits as much diesel exhaust as 34,400 semi-trailers idle. Cruise ships off the Brooklyn waterfront produce 1,200 tons of carbon dioxide, 25 tons of nitrous oxide and tons of hazardous particulates each year, according to a 2019 report. New York Times report.

Adam Armstrong, who said he recently left Red Hook due to pollution from cruise ships, said the neighborhoods around the terminal bear the brunt of industry.

“It all comes down to very dense residential populations,” Armstrong said. “You have the largest NYCHA complex in Brooklyn right there with communities that are already impacted enough by all kinds of factors, not just environmental, but socio-economic, and, you know, it’s kind of crazy.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the majority of ships docked at cruise terminals in Brooklyn and Manhattan run on diesel fuel which has been linked to asthma, cancer and other serious health problems. Cruise ships at Red Hook rarely use a more environmentally friendly “plug-in station” connected to the power grid, Con Edison confirmed. Such a station is not available in Staten Island.

Carolina Salguero, founder and executive director of the nonprofit PortSide New York, pointed out that a cruise ship docked long-term in New York waters is very different from a ship that loads and unloads passengers. . She wondered about the disposal of sewage and the access of asylum seekers to drinking water on the cruise ship.

Councilwoman Alexa Avilés, who represents Red Hook, opposed any plans to put migrants on cruise ships.

“We are approaching winter. Can you imagine having the option of staying on a cruise ship in the middle of winter in New York Harbor? said Avilés. “That doesn’t even make sense. How do people go up and down? All of this is absurd.